ROLLING THE DICE WITH JESUS

Dice JesusI was recently asked a few questions about what it means to follow Jesus. I spent several days mulling over my response. This is what I came up with…

When you say to spend a lot of time trying to know Jesus, what does that mean to you personally?

The first, and perhaps most important, thing knowing Jesus means to me is that I BELIEVE. I truly believe Jesus is who he said he was—the son of God. And then, I believe all the craziness behind the story of Jesus, ya know, that bad-B movie storyline we Christians call the Gospel story. It entails a virgin birth, a sinless life, a criminal’s death, a resurrection (ahhh zombies!) and an ascension back into heaven. And I believe every word. So, when I say I know Jesus, it first means I believe in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God.

A lot of Christians kinda stop there. They say this is the key to what they call “being saved.” These Christians want you to repeat a prayer saying you believe all this stuff and ask for forgiveness of all your sins. Then they say you’ve punched your ticket into heaven. But I’m not sure I buy it, exactly. I think once you truly begin to believe, there’s a process of knowing Jesus that must continue.

So why do I need to know him more?

Two words: Abundant Life.

Many play on people’s fear of the unknown by saying that if you die and don’t follow or believe in Jesus, you’ll go to hell. While playing on such fears is an effective method to get a response, I think there’s a much better answer.

I believe Jesus offers abundant life, eternally yes, but also right now. I can honestly say my life is FANTASTIC! Not because everything’s perfect, or because I’m super lucky, or because I’m ridiculously good looking, or because Duckbilled Platypuses do actually exist, or because my kids are perfect (b/c none of those things are true, except the platypus part, for which we’re all grateful) but it’s fantastic because I follow Jesus.

My life isn’t perfect by any means. My dad died when I was 26 from cancer. My son has a seizure disorder and he takes medicine twice a day. And we’ve been digging ourselves out of our Godzilla-sized medical debt for years now. So following Jesus doesn’t mean my life is perfect. But it means I can have peace even in the midst of imperfection.

When bad things happen, my faith is my shield and shelter. I trust God’s plan. I trust he knows what he’s doing even when I have no freakin’ clue. This faith and trust become a shelter in the midst of life’s storms. Jesus gives me peace, and therefore I can have an awesome life even when life isn’t so awesome.

And what should I do with it once I know it?

So, I believe in Jesus, but what am I doing to make that belief a reality? For instance, if I say my wife is the best cook in the world, but I refuse to ever eat her food, do I truly believe what I claim to believe? Simple analogy, but it works for me. So I say Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, but what am I doing to prove it? This is where the Bible comes in for me.

In the Bible, Jesus called certain people (the twelve Disciples) to be an everyday part of his life. When he called these people, he always said the same two words, “FOLLOW ME.” These twelve disciples had to leave their normal, everyday monotony and become a part of Jesus’ life.

So when I say I’m a disciple of Jesus, these two words, “Follow Me”, encompass my entire identity. I am a follower of Jesus. It’s not just a simple prayer. It’s not merely a belief. It’s an everyday responsibility that leads me to know Jesus and to know more about Jesus. My belief leads me to action.

For me, the Bible is where I find all I know about Jesus and God (well, I guess I’ve learned some from simple experience, as well). It’s where I can read what Jesus taught, how Jesus lived, and who Jesus was/is. There I can find and gain some understanding into what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus, i.e., a Christian.

But that’s not all—the Bible certainly helps me know Jesus, but the best part of the whole thing is, I don’t just read Jesus’ words spoken thousands of years ago, but I can talk to him even now. Since I believe he is actually living, and since I believe he also created the world (and me), I spend time in prayer, talking to Jesus.

I tell him all my needs and let him know that I really, really want to be better than I am right now. I spend time asking for forgiveness for the moments I’ve acted selfishly and out of line with his purpose for my life. I pray for my friends who are hurting or in need. I spend time asking my questions and letting Jesus know that I’m listening if he ever wants to speak.

It hasn’t happened all that much, but I can honestly say I’ve heard his voice a handful of times. And when I have, it’s always been a life altering, unforgettable, stop-me-dead-in-my-tracks kind of moment that changes my emotions and way of thinking. I love hearing his voice.

And of course, knowing Jesus means participating in all the so called spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, bible reading, worship, etc. This is what I believe separates the weak Christians from the strong ones. Those who do these things regularly are often much more unshakeable in their faith than those who don’t.

And is there anything else I should know?

When I say I know Jesus, it also means that I’ve accepted the fact that…he knows me. He knows I’m a failure. He knows I’m weak. He knows I’m flawed. But I’ve realized that he loves me anyway, in spite of my selfishness, my sins, and my pride.

He loves me in spite of the fact that I seem to come up short of his perfect plan so often. Although Jesus knows how ridiculously stupid I tend to be, he treats me as if I’m his most beloved creation…because I am. And so are you.

When I say I know Jesus, it means I am free…free in every sense of the word. I’m free mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m free because I’ve realized a couple things: 1) I am a sinner (to the worst degree), 2) I am forgiven. This is a hugely freeing realization. I don’t have to carry the weight of my past mistakes and failures. The punishment that I deserve from God was placed squarely on the shoulders of Jesus as he hung on the cross. So rather than the punishment I so clearly deserve, I receive forgiveness which I so clearly don’t deserve, and what could ever be more freeing than THAT?

Now, before I end up writing an entire book, let me try to sum this all up.

I believe I am a sinner. I believe Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again and in so doing took the punishment I deserved on himself. And by believing this, and letting my actions continually prove my beliefs, I follow Jesus.

For this reason, I am a Christian.

That’s what I believe, and that’s what it means when I say I’m a follower of Jesus. The main question for me is always, “Do I want to live this crazy life without Jesus, or do I want to live it with Jesus?” He’s helped me through so many difficult moments, my answer is easy.

I’m rolling the dice with Him.

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